Three New Poems, Translated by Robin Moger

It’s an event — although perhaps, I don’t know, your life is more eventful than mine — every time a new translation goes up on qisasukhra, Robin Moger’s experimenting grounds:

qisasThe first poem that went out, yesterday, was a translation of work by Youssef Rakha, “First song of autumn.” You can also listen to an audio version of “أولى أغاني الخريف” over at Rakha’s website. The poem is visceral, sexual, and Moger matches it, move for move: “I am the clarinet’s mouth / and you the ransomed player / Kneel and guzzle me, set / the sea’s taste in my throat[.]”

Rakha was also featured in a Q&A that ran last week on Qantarain which the poet-novelist talks about why he’s writing his new nove in English:

I felt a need for distance and change. I wanted to get away from the familiar with all its implications, overtones and undertones. English helps me to do that, it feels more neutral and doesn′t have the same weight for me, the same burden as Arabic. I need distance from all the things that have happened in Egypt over the past five years since the revolution.

But not his poetry, at least not for now.

The second two come from poet-novelist-translator Ahmed Shafie, who Moger has translated before; who was a 2014 resident of the IWP writing residency in Iowa. They will perhaps forgive me for quoting the first poem in full:

Every poem I read

a jewel

looted from the world.

Every poem I wrote

an apology.

The second is also wonderful because it mentions a conversation (real or imagined) with the novelist Mohamed Abdelnaby, who has a new novel out this year, In the Spider’s Room (review forthcoming; the review linked is, interestingly, by Ahmed Shafie). The poem begins, “I suggested to Mohammed Abdel Nabi that he make his protagonist forget something invaluable on the train[.]”

You can find a great deal more by trailing through the archives, mostly from Egypt’s younger poets, although also work from Osama al Danasouri, for instance, who died in 2007. There are also a few short stories and novel excerpts; follow the blog to keep up with all that Moger shares.